BIG Chat talk 2018

Address for this page is

Shortened address is
(here’s why I shorten URLs for talks).

On Wednesday 17th January 2018 I gave a talk at the British Interactive Group (BIG)’s Little Event on science communication jobs, at Birmingham’s Think Tank.

Screenshot 2018-01-17 18.38.09

Above (click the picture) are my talk slides (PDF for now until I’ve tidied up the speakers’ notes!). More to come! Slide transcript-y bits are in green below.

Topic headings below follow the outline of my talk, with extra bits to be added under new headings. Everyone is welcome to offer suggestions for inclusion.

Speaking of inclusion, here’s an interesting article on people from communities that tend not to go to science museums and don’t feel that that sort of thing is for them: Reimagining publics and (non)participation: Exploring exclusion from science communication through the experiences of low-income, minority ethnic groups (2018), see also a blog post about this Challenging social exclusion in science communication (2018).

Section Zero (yup)

Where science communicators work

When I started out in science communication I didn’t know about the variety of jobs that could be done and learned about this by collecting a massive list of vacancies pages from scientific organisations (in London, where I live). That lives at the first link below and is very London-heavy (see the red arrow pointing to 180. Outside London, other countries. I have been trying to expand this to include other cities and countries and have developed the second link, which is an editable Google Document – feel free to add a vacancies page if you know of one. Obviously all the mailing lists and resources in Section Four will also advertise jobs, but not all jobs will be posted there. You must be proactive!!

Screenshot 2018-01-17 18.42.33
Original blog post ” Where London science communicators might work” mentioned in the talk (London heavy) – this is a massive list of collected vacancies pages from various scientific organisations with offices in London, it has expanded beyond London too. I am keen to hear of people who’ve done similar for their own cities / territories.
Publicly editable Google Spreadsheet of scicomm vacancies pages around the world – please add more. I created this from the list above and made it open-edit.
Science communication in the United Kingdom (Wikiversity) – quite good for an overview of the field, who’s who (organisationally), what’s what.

Screenshot 2018-01-18 21.20.04

Section One

What do I mean by #scicomm and PE?
Below is a slide from my talk, the original has animations with things pinging up and I hopefully explain them. This is an oversimplification and just what I understand these terms to mean.

Screenshot 2018-01-17 18.25.54

Science is done in some research-doing organisation. Many things then happen one of which might be academic publishing (black). Along the way (green leading off black arrow) preliminary results might be published in ‘public media’ and once research is completed there might be further press releases and more publication. That can be pretty much it – a one way ‘science done’ to ‘science published’. People enjoy hearing about new scientific discoveries… some may want to get more closely involved (lower pink arrow). Public can get involved in process of research (orange arrow pointing to black arrow – eg taking part in clincal trials). Another output of research and its publication (upper pink arrow) is the decisions made about future research, public can get involved in those decisions too (lobbying, or as a lay member of a research committee). Twirly black arrow at far left is indicating scientists reaching out to the public and inviting them to get involved and even co-create, an example of which might be Citizen Science. The terms science communication and public engagement cover all stages of this diagram but I tend to refer to #scicomm as the stuff on the right hand side of the picture (communicating science already done) and public engagement as the stuff on the left (engaging the public with science / research). But I may be wrong 🙂 After all going and giving a talk about science is obviously engaging them with science.

I also quite enjoy this science flowchart 😉

Briefly mentioned in my talk
Citizen science
New free online course from UCL: Introduction to Citizen Science and Scientific Crowdsourcing

Julie’s thread is about scientists who communicate science and she points out that not every scientist is supported to do scicomm, or to do it well and some don’t really enjoy doing it and shouldn’t be pressured.

Section Two

Building a portfolio
On the origin of science writers (2010) Ed Yong’s piece on how people became science writers. He created a blog post and asked science writers to add their story in the comments.
How to be a science presenter (2011) a post I wrote for this blog after attending an event at Cheltenham Science Festival. Apparently BBC producers keep an eye on YouTube (or did in 2011) to find talent…

Section Three

Screenshot 2018-01-18 21.15.37.png

Finding opportunities – horizon scanning

• BIG-Chat mailing list
• psci-com mailing list
ABSW – Association of British Science Writers
Stempra – mailing list for people working in STEM comms / PR.
• NCCPE – National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement – “Funded by the four UK Funding Councils, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust the NCCPE helps inspire and support universities to engage with the public. The Centre is hosted between the University of Bristol and the University of the West of England.”
Getting into science communication (2015) – from Leeds University careers
• Oxford Uni’s Careers Advice for scientists – Alternatives to R&D
How museum work can combine research and public engagement (2017)
Curation jobs are an ideal opportunity to showcase skills in collation and animation.

Entry-level job at the Royal Society (paid internship, London Living Wage): Public Engagement Intern, closes 2 Feb 2018.

Paid internships (month long, London Living Wage) at the Science Media Centre, call will go out in May 2018.

Suggstion: given that both these internships mention the words science, communication, living wage and intern/s/hip on the webpage about this this suggests that other jobs would too. When I was creating my Great List of Vacancies Pages I used that logic and applied that sort of search term strategy to uncover ‘more of the same’, so I’d suggest sticking similar search into your favourite search engine. Add your city too (you can force Google to return only pages that do contain a word with +Birmingham, for example, and you can get pages saying “science communication” with quotes around the phrase, as opposed to pages where science happens to appear on the same page as the word communication, but where it might not be about scicomm.

Section Four

Screenshot 2018-01-18 21.16.52

Qualifications: what do they offer?
Getting a PhD to become a science writer (2012) – Scicurious post on not needing a PhD to be a science writer, following some discussion from someone who suggested that they might do a PhD for that purpose.
Sheffield MSc Science Communication alumnae – what did they do next? A selection of people who’ve done the course and the jobs they went on to do.

Didn’t include in the talk but…
Scicomm and public engagement journals
• Journal of Science Communication – JCOM (currently doing a call for papers on user experience of digital technologies in citizen science, and have a series of essays on universities and science communication).
Public Understanding of Science (PUS)

Section Five

Screenshot 2018-01-18 21.18.19

Applying for jobs
How to write a CV without work experience (Guardian Careers)
Some general thoughts on filling in job applications (2011) – post by me
Freelance fees guide from London Freelance
Freelance rates from National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Freelance word rates – from Scott Carney
ABSW’s Reading Room – you can see the list of topics but you’ll need to be a member (discounted for students) to view items. This is aimed at science writers / journalists.

Really helpful thread from Peter Matthews below. It’s aimed at Early Career Researchers (people with a PhD who are getting post-doctoral positions at research institutions, usually universities) but the info is widely applicable.

Section Six

Notes to employers

/jobs –
Make it easy for visitors to your website to find where you’ve hidden your vacancies page. Do you call it jobs, recruitment, careers, opportunities? Have you hidden it in ‘About us’ or similar (good) or left it languishing in your website’s hinterland (bad)?
How can I/we persuade employers to set up a /jobs redirect from their homepage? (2017) – tips on creating a page redirect from another of my blogs.
An earlier post on /jobs and the thinking behind getting companies to point (their website)/jobs to wherever they’re hiding their vacancies page.

More to come here!

Section Seven

Language – not in talk

Section Eight

Stuff that doesn’t fit into the headings above…

Working abroad
• British Council – in previous years the British Council has hosted science communication internships with people on them travelling abroad. I’m trying to find out some more about this, but this page is from 2015.

Section Nine

Further reading

A changing sector: where is science communication now? – British Science Association’s survey of scicomm people whether ‘scientist communicators’ or ‘science communicators’.



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